REVIEW: Latest ‘Emma’ adaptation is a stilted experience

“Emma” is a novel rich enough to spawn several on-screen adaptations, but unfortunately, the latest is rather dry.

Anya Taylor Joy plays the titular character here. A wealthy young woman in England, Emma has a reputation as a matchmaker. The movie picks up with her starting a friendship with Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), and eventually, she decides to try and set her up with one of the local suitors.

At the same time, Emma herself is looking at starting her own relationship with someone. However, some of her previous actions make the process somewhat tricky.

This film has a unique problem in that on the one hand, it comes across as convoluted, with how many character relationships are set up. But on the other, it seems like nothing is really happening as the story moves along.

Trying to remember and navigate who is interested in who, and keeping track of the relationships trips up a viewer, taking a person out of the moment. But at the same time, no major plot developments are taking place that can hook an audience in deeper.

Another noticeable issue is just how lacking in passion and energy the whole picture is. Whenever characters are interacting with each other, especially romantically, it feels so suffocated. Despite being all about love and possible heartbreak, there are few swells of emotion.

Courtesy Perfect World Pictures, Working Title, Blueprint Pictures and Focus Features.

While having some talented performers, the cast doesn’t really have room to breathe, either. Everyone appears stiff and subdued, with few moments to really drive home just how strong the emotions are.

Perhaps worst of all is how the movie squanders Bill Nighy. He’s an amazing actor and can bring so much charm, wit and humor to the screen, and he feels so sidelined. I felt like I needed to listen to him sing “Christmas is All Around” from “Love Actually” after watching this to get some of those positive Bill Nighy vibes that are missing here.

While the movie feels rather dry, though, credit does have to go to how the time period was recreated. The set, costume and production design truly is on point, giving the movie a real visual identity.

That’s really all the identity this flick has, though. A movie can look great but it doesn’t help when it’s drier than a plate of sand. While having a competent look, “Emma” comes across as a rather hollow experience. 2 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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